Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Countdown to Spring Training...


Yankees Captain Aaron Judge

Steinbrenner Field awaits old and new friends…

'Twas the month before Spring Training, when all thro’ the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

The Yankees made some big executive hires at the beginning of the month when they brought in Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya, but it has been nothing but crickets for the past few weeks. We are now closer to Spring Training than we are from the number of days since New Year’s Day. Seemingly, the guys on the 40-man roster plus a few top prospects, and those with minor league contracts including Spring Training invitations are the faces we will see in a few weeks down in Tampa, Florida.

The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported this week that the Yankees have talked with the agents for free agent outfielders Jurickson Profar and David Peralta, however, nothing is imminent as the Yankees seem unwilling to cross the Steve Cohen luxury tax threshold of $293 million. Neither of those guys would move the needle in terms of improving the team’s chances against the Houston Astros or the upstart Toronto Blue Jays. 

So, for now, we await the Spring Training battle between Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, Estevan Florial, and a bevy of non-roster invites, including Willie Calhoun, Rafael Ortega, and Billy McKinney.

Estevan Florial

Mike Axisa brought up a good point this week about Hicks. He will accrue sufficient service time to gain 10-and-5 rights later in the season (August) which allows a player to veto any trade proposals. Based on this fact, it seems likely the clock is running out on Hicks and he will be an ex-Yankee by this summer’s trade deadline. It is tough enough thinking about Hicks on the Opening Day Roster…being married to him for the next three seasons would be abysmal.

Despite GM Brian Cashman’s recent words on MLB Network Radio about Hicks, “I suspect he will be the guy that emerges, because he’s still really talented and everything’s there”, everything the Yankees have done in the past couple of years shows they would love to move on. There is no way Cashman would bash a player he is actively trying to trade so I take his words with a grain of salt. 

I keep hoping for a Zack Britton signing before he ends up somewhere like Boston. I would like to have his experience in the pen as a hedge for Closer Clay Holmes. I know Jonathan Loaisiga or Tommy Kahnle could potentially step up if necessary so the desire for Britton is probably more sentimental than anything despite his health challenges. 

An infield glut has led to talk the Yankees will make a trade before Opening Day. I am not a proponent of trading Gleyber Torres but recognize that if both Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe make the roster, Torres is the most valuable trading chip. My excitement will be if Josh Donaldson and/or Isiah Kiner-Falefa is included in any potential trade regardless of the return.

As much as I respect Donaldson’s glove, I want a healthy DJ LeMahieu as the starting third baseman. This is why I believe so strongly the Yankees need a left fielder other than Oswaldo Cabrera so that Cabrera can be the guy to move around to different positions in the infield and not LeMahieu. I am quietly hoping Andres Chaparro or Trey Sweeney can eventually take the position within the next few years.  Well, Manny Machado would look good there, but I am not going to hold my breath on that one.

Oh well, a few more weeks before pitchers and catchers report.

Scott Rolen to the Hall of Fame

I do not begrudge Scott Rolen for making the Hall of Fame. He was a great player, but I find it humorous that I cannot identify him specifically with one team. He started with the Philadelphia Phillies but spent significant time in St Louis and Cincinnati. Is he a Phillie, a Cardinal, or a Red? I am so confused. I had forgotten he had even spent some time as a Blue Jay north of the border. He seems like one of those guys like Mike Mussina did, who should go into the HOF with no team insignia.

Scott Rolen (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

I keep seeing people say if Rolen is in the HOF, Don Mattingly should be there. I guess it is not my desire to compare one to the other. Regardless of whether we believe Mattingly should be in the Hall of Fame, Scott Rolen’s presence has nothing to do with it. I accept his election because he received more than seventy-five percent of the vote. We can talk all day about the flawed voting process and the narcissistic writers involved but until a better solution is implemented, it is what it is.

Maybe Mattingly will be voted in one day by the veterans’ committee…maybe not. I will be happy if it happens, but frankly, I will not lose any sleep if it does not. Maybe that is just my pettiness about a guy who is the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach and is paid to beat the Yankees.

MLB Top 100 Prospects

MLB announced their top 100 prospects and three Yankees made the list. The top Yankee is everybody’s favorite prospect, Anthony Volpe, who is ranked fifth. Volpe will be in camp to battle Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswald Peraza for starting shortstop, but he is expected to start the year in Triple-A. Regardless of whether Volpe is on the Opening Day Roster or if he makes his Major League debut later in the season, it is nearly Volpe Time in the Bronx.

Anthony Volpe

Jasson Dominguez was ranked forty-seventh, and Oswald Peraza, who should be the Yankees’ starting shortstop this season, was fifty-second. 

Former Yankees Ken Waldichuk (Athletics) and Kevin Alcantara (Cubs) also made the list. They were seventy-sixth and eighty-seventh, respectively.

I thought Austin Wells might make an appearance on the list, but he did not make it. To his credit, making the list has nothing to do with future success. Austin Wells can hit, and he will be a very good Yankee when he is ready for his ascent to the Major Leagues.

Ex-Yankees in the News

There may be no news about current Yankees, but a few former ones were making headlines this week.

Jackson Frazier, the bumbling outfielder formally known as Clint, has resurfaced from his trip to the Winter Dominican Leagues to sign a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. It includes an invitation to Spring Training. Frazier had been released by the Cubs last fall. 

Two former top Yankees prospects were designated for assignment. The Seattle Mariners DFA’d Justus Sheffield, while the Pittsburgh Pirates did the same with Miguel Andújar. In both cases, the players passed through waivers and were assigned outright to Triple-A. I thought some team might take a flyer on Sheffield’s potential, but I was wrong. It is sad how far both men have fallen. Hopefully, there is a rebound in store for one or both.

Justus Sheffield (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Aroldis Chapman found a new home in Kansas City. Given Chapman’s aversion to October, he seems right at home with the Royals since they will be taking October off this year. It is a one-year contract worth $3.75 million although Chappy can pick up $4 million more in performance incentives. I am grateful he will no longer make appearances for the Yankees, but it will sicken me if he gets to make that ugly stare at the end of a Yankees-Royals game in KC. I hope the Yankees can hit him as hard as the Yankees’ opponents did last season, if not harder.

I thought Chapman might sign with the Miami Marlins since he lives in the area, but apparently, they only offered $2 million. 

I am ready for Yankees baseball…

As always, Go Yankees!


Saturday, January 21, 2023

The January of No Action...


Yankees quiet as Spring Training approaches…

The 2023 New York Yankees are about as productive as the United States House of Representatives in the 118th U.S. Congress.

Despite the addition of high-powered executives Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya, the sounds from the Yankees’ front office have been eerily silent three weeks into the new year.  For Brian Cashman, this could be the calm before the storm as we know he likes to lay in the weeds before he pounces. Or it could be what it is…the Yankees are content with the changes made and are ready to dance with the current roster regardless of whether we think they should have done more to move the needle.

Admittedly, I had bought into those who said the Yankees left fielder for this season is not yet on the roster, but the closer we get to pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa in mid-February, it seems less likely there will be any further moves. Best case scenario seems to be a trade in Spring Training before the team heads north to start the season. Trades have been rare this offseason, but maybe yesterday’s Twins-Marlins trade that saw AL batting champion Luis Arraez head to Miami for RHP Pablo Lopez and prospects will open things up.

I do not expect the Yankees to sign left fielder Jurickson Profar, perhaps the best available free agent option remaining on the board. MLB Trade Rumors reported yesterday that the Yankees do not want to cross the highest luxury tax tier, the so-called Steve Cohen Tax on payroll above $293 million. The Yankees are bumping up against the tier, making the addition of a Scott Boras client improbable.

Spotrac is currently reporting the Yankees’ projected luxury tax payroll to be $291,229,921.  Roster Resource shows $292,331,667; and Cot’s Contracts is projecting $288,551,667. I did not analyze the differences, but regardless of how you look at current payroll, the Yankees are bumping up against the highest tier. It shows no additions can be made without subtractions if we truly believe Hal Steinbrenner will not venture into Cohen tax territory. 

Recognizing this is not the truth, the outside perception is the Yankees are essentially saying that we are unable to find a taker for Aaron Hicks (i.e., nobody wants him), therefore, by default, he is our starting left fielder. In what level of insanity does that make sense? The Yankees have made two notable failed attempts for left field. The Joey Gallo trade of 2021; and the Andrew Benintendi trade of 2022. Benny would have been a great addition if not for the unfortunate injury, and then the Yankees let the Chicago White Sox outbid them for Benny’s services this winter so regardless of some nice brief work, it did not provide sustained success. If the Yankees did not believe in Aaron Hicks in July 2022, why should they believe in him now? I am tired of hearing he is ‘healthy now’. We know, by proven history, it is a façade and a short-term situation. Good health and Aaron Hicks do not go together. Then, there is the question of attitude and desire. At times, he seems so aloof in the outfield. It negates any positive play for him.

I so want Estevan Florial to have a baseball epiphany and come into Spring Training with a newfound skill of identifying pitches with high success, and crushing every pitch thrown to him in the strike zone.  Sadly, we know it is a fictional dream.  Yet, I will give him the benefit of the doubt for no other reason than I do not want to see Aaron Hicks as the starting left fielder. Perhaps Florial and Oswaldo Cabrera, in a platoon, can hold down the position until the trading deadline. The sad part of yet another trade deadline deal for a left fielder is how many prospects the team has already given up with the failed search to replace Brett Gardner. 

For the conundrum, the Yankees can look no further than last March’s trade with Minnesota that brought Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt to the Bronx. Collectively, Donaldson and IKF will cost the Yankees $31 million toward luxury tax payroll this season. With money like that, you could buy a rather decent left fielder. Instead, we have two players most fans would prefer to see elsewhere. Throw in Aaron Hicks’ $10 million and it shows that one should never trust Brian Cashman’s financial decisions. He is clearly not maximizing the value of every dollar. 

I am a little frustrated the Yankees, so far, have chosen to do nothing about their weakest link. The Yankees have not closed ground on the Houston Astros. The Astros may have lost Justin Verlander, but they have proven the ability to produce elite starting pitchers. I doubt the loss of Verlander is going to derail their team. They lost one of the best shortstops in baseball prior to last season, and the replacement is the 2022 World Series MVP. They now have Jose Abreu manning first base over Yuli Gurriel which is an upgrade. There is no reason to believe the Astros will not be playing in the American League Championship Series this fall.  On the other hand, their ALCS opponent-to-be is wide open. 

The Yankees are better with Carlos Rodón. But how much better remains to be seen. Jameson Taillon, the man he replaced, is a good pitcher. No doubt Rodón is the superior starter, but it does not close the gap with Houston. The problem in last year’s ALCS was not pitching, it was hitting. To put it lightly, the team’s ability to hit was offensive and I do not mean that positively. They were awful and could have used guys like DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi. I thought there would be an offseason push to find players with similar bat-to-ball skills. 

DJ LeMahieu’s return is huge yet not enough. I enjoyed the video I saw this week of DJ working out in Tampa with Gleyber Torres. 

Video link with credit to Bryan Hoch, @BryanHoch and Marc C, @MarcNYY618 on Twitter: Gleyber and DJ

He seems to be moving nicely and the images of him playing third base reinforce how much I would prefer to see him there over Josh Donaldson. The concern is obviously health. The toe injury was resolved through only rest, and I carry a fear that he will reaggravate the injury. The Yankees need LeMahieu, and his ability to stay on the field for the duration of the season will go a long way toward determining October success. 

As a fan, I am frustrated the Yankees spent so much on Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodón in addition to what they are paying Gerrit Cole, only to leave the team as vulnerable as it has been. They could have done more to field the best possible roster, arguably without spending more money. Other teams routinely move bad contracts. It takes prospects and retention of some of the financial commitment, but they do it. For the Yankees, the bad contracts hang like an albatross until the end. Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Aaron Hicks are literally preventing the Yankees from becoming better because they cannot perform to the level of their contracts. 

These are the best years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge. The Yankees should not waste them with underperformers in key roles. I would love to see a 26-man roster that I am genuinely excited about when the team trots out on the field at Yankee Stadium in late March. There is still time for Brian Cashman to make it happen, but it seems with each passing day, the roster is what it is. Hoping for good health and rebounds from multiple players.  Sure, what could go wrong…

Bad Day for Former Top Prospects

It was wild to see two former top Yankees prospects designated for assignment yesterday, on the same day. Miguel Andújar was designated by the Pittsburgh Pirates to clear space for the return of Andrew McCutcheon. In Seattle, the Mariners DFA’d Justus Sheffield after signing veteran infielder Tommy LaStella.

Andújar, scheduled to make $1.525 million this season, seems likely to remain in the Pirates organization unless some team is willing to take a flyer. Doubtful that Andújar would forego his contract if no team claims him on waivers, making it a high probability that he is assigned outright to Indianapolis (AAA). He should get an invitation to Spring Training so he may have another opportunity with the Pirates (assuming no team claims him).

Miguel Andújar

Sheffield seems likelier to be claimed or traded. It was not that long ago he was a highly touted prospect, and there are pitching coaches who may think they could be the difference-makers. He only made $760,800 last season and has an option remaining. No doubt someone tries to uncork the potential that has alluded the Yankees and the Mariners. Maybe Sheffield is just one of those guys who does not get it until he reaches his thirties. He is only 26 (turns 27 in May) so there is time for him to discover success.

It would have been cool if Clint “Jackson” Frazier had been DFA’d too but unfortunately, he was cut by the Chicago Cubs back in October and has not yet hooked on with a new team.

Ah, the prospect-hugging days of Andújar, Sheffield, and Frazier seem like they were only yesterday.

Note to the Toronto Blue Jays

Shut up! Until you can win the AL East and advance in the playoffs, your words sound as truthful and mature as New York Representative George Santos. 

Whether it is new Blue Jay Brandon Belt saying "We should be the World Series favorites this year" or Vladimir Guerrero saying the Yankees were the easiest team to beat in 2022, the words are hollow for a team that has done nothing on the field to back up their words.  

Shelley Duncan returns to the Yankees Family

Former Yankees prospect Shelley Duncan may have never found success as a big leaguer for the team, but he is back in the organization as the newest manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. 

Duncan replaces Doug Davis who managed the RailRiders for the past two seasons. Davis has since been named the manager of the Round Rock Express, the Triple A affiliate for the Texas Rangers.

Duncan was analytics coordinator for the Chicago White Sox for the past two seasons. He played 68 games for the Yankees between 2007 and 2009, batting .219/.290/.411 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. He found a few more opportunities with Cleveland (but not much more success) before ending his career with the Rays in 2013. An interesting stat is that he hit exactly eleven home runs and scored 29 runs in each of his three seasons with Cleveland.

It is always good to see old friends find their way home. Congrats and best of luck, Shelley! Your job is simple. Accelerate the exit of Anthony Volpe on a bus bound for New York. 

Farewell to Sweeny Murti

I was disappointed to see the announcement yesterday that Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti has left WFAN after 30 years. He did not announce his plans. I wish Sweeny the best in whatever he does next, but the Yankees beat will not be the same without him. I have much respect for his professionalism, and he was easily one of the better team reporters to follow. 

Sweeny posted this farewell on Twitter.

We wish you the best for what is next, Sweeny. We are confident you will bring your high class, superior professionalism, and elite expertise to your next adventure, with the usual exceedingly outstanding success.  We have been blessed by your presence in the Yankees Universe. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Who's Left? ...


Search for quality leftfielder continues…

When the offseason started, my team goals for the Yankees were simple. Bring back Aaron Judge, sign, or trade for a quality number two starter behind Gerrit Cole, add a high leverage reliever, and get a solid leftfielder who plays great defense and can hit a baseball with consistency. 

The first three were solved in December when the Yankees signed Judge (after the famed Jon Heyman ‘Arson Judge’ to the Giants tweet), Carlos Rodón, and Tommy Kahnle. I had optimism the Yankees would fill that last hole and make it a tremendous offseason. So far, it has not been meant to be.

A month away from Spring Training and our best hope for left field is Aaron Hicks. Maybe Hicks can rebound and play like he did earlier in his career while avoiding the Injured List. Yeah, that and ocean front property in Arizona look like awesome deals. Sorry, I am so done with Hicks. Trade the guy so that he can be closer to the golf courses near his Scottsdale, Arizona home.

I had been excited about the play of Andrew Benintendi last year when he started to get comfortable playing in left for the Yankees, then the disappointing injury. I will always wonder what could have been if Benny and DJ LeMahieu had been healthy last October. Maybe they still lose in the ALCS against the Houston Astros (probably), but it would have been extended to at least six or seven games. Go seven, then anything can happen.

I was cautiously optimistic the Yankees would re-sign Benny this offseason despite the rumors that he did not want to play for the Yankees, preferring a Midwestern team closer to his St Louis home. We may never know if that was true or not, but once the Yankees signed Rodón, it took the Yankees out of the market for Benny (who was looking for a five-year contract). Benny did find his new Midwestern home when the Chicago White Sox inked him to a five-year, $75 million deal (the largest contract in White Sox history which I still find humorous).

Brian Reynolds has been the favorite target of so many Yankee fans. Fuel was added earlier this offseason when he demanded a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates which left so many fans salivating for him. Word the Yankees had engaged the Pirates in talks only further created unsubstantiated excitement. It was reported this week the Yankees have found the asking price too high as the Pirates were reportedly seeking multiple top five prospects plus we know Pittsburgh wants quality Major-League ready pitching which is not a Yankees’ strength in the upper levels of the farm system. There have been no substantive talks between the teams in recent weeks and the Pirates do not seem particularly motivated to move Reynolds. At best, he seems like a trade deadline candidate. I have dismissed the thought of Reynolds as a Yankee.

I had brief hope the Yankees would sign potential Comeback Player of the Year candidate Michael Conforto who missed all of last year due to injury. The Giants, after losing out on Arson Judge, snagged Conforto to remove his availability. If he has a successful 2023 campaign for the Giants, I will hold a little bit of envy. 

There have been various trade rumors about Minnesota’s Max Kepler which seems to excite no one except maybe Twins fans. 

The Yankees had eyes for Arizona’s Daulton Varsho until the Toronto Blue Jays snagged him with an overpay (talented top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno and veteran outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.).

So, here we are with Aaron Hicks. Yay, us. The Yankees seem to view Oswaldo Cabrera like most of us, his best value is super-utility for both the infield and outfield. Cabrera, spelling Hicks from time to time, is not the worst scenario but it is not one I would like to see. It is not a knock against Cabrera. I enjoy his presence on the roster. He has earned his spot.

Aaron Judge, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Albert Abreu

For other teams, Everson Pereira would be a legitimate contender for an outfield role heading into Spring Training. Maybe he is with the Yankees, but they seem to prefer their prospects follow the traditional path of upward progression through success at each level before an ascension to the Majors. Watching the Atlanta Braves promote AA players must really boggle the minds of the Yankees’ brain trust. With Pereira, Jasson Dominguez, and Spencer Jones nearing Major League-ready status within the next few years, I get not wanting to sign extended contracts with veteran players. The Yankees just need a quality outfielder in left for the next one or two years, until the young guns are ready. 

The best remaining free agent target appears to be Jurickson Profar. Fans seem mixed about him. Profar, who turns 30 next month, is not a lefty and his 2023 projection per Fangraphs barely places him above league average. They have him playing 122 games with 525 plate appearances, hitting .241/.326/.389 with 13 home runs, 105 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR. Is this better than Hicks? Maybe, maybe not. I know Cashman has liked Profar for years, but this probably should not be the time to pull the trigger. If the Yankees trade Hicks before he acquires 10-and-5 no trade rights this season, then maybe Profar looks better. As they say, the girls always get prettier at closing time.

Remember when Estevan Florial was a top prospect and future star for the Yankees’ outfield. Yeah, those were exciting days. If he had progressed as we had hoped, he would be the left field answer. Period. End of story. He will get a chance in Spring Training but if anyone seems destined for failure in Pinstripes, it is him. I must place the usual caveat on it…I hope he proves me wrong. I would love for Florial to kill it in Tampa and head north with the Yankees in late March with a newfound skill of identifying pitches in the strike zone. 

Maybe GM Brian Cashman surprises us with a trade between now and the end of March. Maybe not. If not, the Yankees will probably be in the left field market again this coming July like they have been the last two years. I hate to think about the lost prospect capital with the failed acquisitions of Joey Gallo and Andrew Benintendi. Gallo cost us 2B Trevor Hauver, 3B Ezequiel Duran, RHP Glen Otto, and 3B/OF Josh Smith (although we did capture RHP Clayton Beeter in the Gallo trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers at last season’s trade deadline to recoup some value). Benintendi cost the Yankees RHP Chandler Champlain, LHP T.J. Sikkema, and RHP Beck Way. Clearly, the search for left field help has been expensive with the threat of becoming more costly.

In many ways, left field feels like second base did when Robinson Cano left, and the Yankees tried a series of unsuccessful options including former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and the legendary (um, not really) Stephen Drew.

I have no hope for optimism about left field today. It seems adequate will be acceptable for the front office which, in my humble opinion, does not help gain ground on the Astros. I keep hearing the word “if” when people are talking about the current Yankees roster. If I owned the Yankees, I would find a way to replace “if” with “when” as in when the Yankees win their twenty-eighth World Series championship.

So, left field, to be continued…

Arbitration Eligible

The Yankees were able to avoid arbitration with eleven of twelve players before Friday’s deadline. The players signed from the start of the offseason through yesterday were Frankie Montas ($7.5 million); Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($6 million); Lou Trivino ($4.1 million); Wandy Peralta ($3.35 million); Clay Holmes ($3.3 million); Domingo German ($2.6 million); Jonathan Loaisiga ($2.26 million); Kyle Higashioka ($1.4625 million); Nestor Cortes Jr ($3.2 million); Jose Trevino ($2.36 million); and Michael King ($1.3 million). Imagine, paying IKF more than Nasty Nestor and Trevi combined.

The player headed for arbitration is Gleyber Torres. The Yankees most likely will agree with Gleyber before they get to their contentious arbitration hearing. They have been good at arbitration avoidance since the acrimonious arbitration hearing between Dellin Betances and the Yankees, especially team President Randy Levine, a few years ago. I hope the Yankees keep Gleyber happy and primed for a tremendous 2023 season.

I am not sure why we keep hearing Gleyber’s name in trade rumors. Perhaps it is because his name was mentioned in a possible trade with the Miami Marlins at last year’s trade deadline. Or maybe the desire to keep DJ LeMahieu at one position to reduce his risk for injury. The ascension of Anthony Volpe to eventually lay claim to second base if Oswald Peraza takes shortstop is not far away, which may be another reason to unload Torres now.

Ethan and Gleyber Torres

I would prefer to see the Yankees hang onto Torres. I have concerns LeMahieu’s toe, or other aging body parts, may pose ongoing health challenges keeping him off the field. There is also the chance Josh Donaldson’s decline goes off the deep end to plummet further into oblivion. If that’s the case, LeMahieu is needed at third, and Gleyber must be the second baseman until Volpe’s arrival. I am sure there are some fans who want Oswaldo Cabrera as both the starting leftfielder and the starting second baseman. Sure, he is versatile. He can handle both positions at the same time. Seriously, I do not see a viable second base option outside of Gleyber until Volpe is ready. Place me in the camp who believes he needs a little more time in Triple A before he gets the call to the Bronx. Move Gleyber at the trading deadline if you must.

Spring Training is in the air

With temperatures in the mid-30s at Yankee Stadium today, it is hard to believe that Spring is right around the corner.

Steinbrenner Field

We are a month away from MLB reporting dates. Pitchers and catchers participating in the 2023 World Baseball Classic must report to their respective MLB camps by February 13th. For the Yankees, pitchers and catchers must report by February 16th, while position players have until February 20th.

No doubt Team Captain Aaron Judge will draw much media attention upon his arrival. The 2022 AL MVP, with the fresh $360 million contract in hand, will soon be honored with a key to the City of New York according to Mayor Eric Adams. Judge will certainly be the King of Tampa for a few weeks until he leads the team to Yankee Stadium to stake his latest claim on the greatest City in the World. 

I am hoping all the attention on Judge sets Giancarlo Stanton up for his biggest year in Pinstripes. It would be fun to see Stanton and Judge battle for the home run championship like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle did in 1961.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Have Rings, Will Travel...


Brian Sabean (Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees hire former Giants GM Brian Sabean as executive advisor…

With the big front office additions of Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya, my first thought was ‘where is the senior advisor for Manager Aaron Boone?’ Oh well, I guess we cannot have everything in life.

When the news broke the Yankees had hired former San Francisco Giants executive Brian Sabean, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. I remember when he worked for the Yankees and was disappointed when he left the team in 1993 to join the San Francisco Giants. The feeling was not much unlike how I felt when former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin left my favorite NFL team to join the Pittsburgh Steelers as their head coach. It was clear when these guys were leaving, an excessive abundance of talent was walking out of the door.  It shows we can become attached to front office executives and coaches the same way as we do our teams’ players. Especially when they are good, extremely good, at their jobs.

Sabean, 66, becomes executive advisor to GM Brian Cashman. Sabean originally joined the Yankees in 1985, working in pro scouting. His rise to director of scouting and later vice president of player development was successful in helping to build the groundwork for the late 1990s Yankees dynasty through the drafting of Bernie Williams and the Core Four (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte).

Sabean left the Yankees in 1993 to join the Giants as assistant to the GM and vice president of scouting/player personnel. He became senior vice president of player personnel in 1995. In 1996, Sabean was promoted to general manager, a position he held for nineteen years. Under his watch, the Giants won World Series championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. After 2015, Sabean moved up to executive vice president of baseball operations. The Giants hired former Athletics/Dodgers executive Farhan Zaidi in 2018 as president of baseball operations and Sabean was moved an executive vice president position, focusing on strategic initiatives and evaluation. 

Sabean’s role became less significant as the years went by, and seeking a job with greater importance, he let his contract with the Giants expire on October 31st. I was pleased that Sabean reached out to the Yankees, even if the East Coast was as much of an influence as the Yankees, to motivate the call. For personal reasons, Sabean wanted to be closer to family and will work from the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa, Florida. Regardless of the reasons, I am glad he is back in the organization. It will be fun to watch how his role evolves as he gains greater influence in the front office. For the naysayers of Brian Cashman, Brian Sabean is a brilliant hire, which, in my opinion, helps Cashman immensely. 

Gene Michael may be deceased, but his influence over Sabean lives on. Stick was a good, sorry, great teacher, and as they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. 

In October, if you had told me that Aaron Judge would be playing for a team in 2023 that employs Brian Sabean, I would have been quite disappointed. Three months later, it is a beautiful thing. 

Yanks Add Omar Minaya

My excitement about Omar Minaya may not be on the same level as it is for Brian Sabean, but I think the addition is just as significant. Minaya was not successful as general manager for the New York Mets (at least in my opinion), but let’s get real, his bosses were the Wilpons. I am not going to crucify Minaya, who grew up in Queens, for working with one of the worst ownership groups in recent memory. 

The Yankees hired Minaya, 64, as senior advisor to baseball operations. Like Sabean, Minaya will report directly to Brian Cashman. The former Montreal Expos and New York Mets general manager most recently served Major League Baseball as a consultant for amateur scouting initiatives, a position he had held since last February. When he was named Montreal’s GM in 2002, he became the first Hispanic to hold the general manager position in Major League Baseball.

It was interesting that Minaya mentioned a failed trade in 2018 that would have sent then Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Bronx and his role in nixing the trade. Too bad they were not able to work that one out. I have always liked Wheeler and he has only gotten better with the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Minaya has over thirty years’ experience in scouting and baseball operations. In addition to his time with the Expos and Mets, he has worked for the Texas Rangers and the San Diego Padres plus several stints with MLB.

Willie Randolph has been around the Yankees more frequently the last couple of years, including an appearance at Aaron Judge’s recent press conference. Minaya was the Mets GM who fired Randolph as the team’s manager in 2008, a move that has been heavily criticized for how it was handled. Hopefully the years have mended any potential rifts between the two men. I am hopeful Minaya’s presence does not keep Willie away. 

Omar Minaya & Willie Randolph (Photo Credit: Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Presumably, Minaya will be New York-based. He worked remotely from his home in New Jersey for the Mets. Hopefully there will be no Jason Bay-like acquisitions in our future.

I like the blend of old school baseball knowledge with modern analytics. The Yankees continue to improve in every area of the organization, and it can only help to enhance the product on the field. Now, if we could only find a quality left fielder.

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

No player news for the Yankees this week despite the endless search for a new left fielder by the Yankees’ fanbase.

Multiple teams have expressed interest in coveted outfielder Brian Reynolds. The Pirates continue to ask for a King’s Ransom for Reynolds. Although Reynolds has demanded a trade, baseball experts continue to speculate that the Pirates will not trade him before the season starts. Their lowball contract extension offers to Reynolds do not inspire confidence they will be able to retain him, so it seems like the best course of action for the Pirates is to trade him if they truly want to improve their club for the long-term. 

I have given up hope the Yankees will acquire him. I am tired of seeing the endless tweets about him. If it happens, it happens. If not, c’est la vie. 

My fear is the Yankees open the season with Aaron Hicks slotted for left field. Yet, I hold out hope something will change between now and Spring Training. The Yankees paid heavily for both Harrison Bader and Andrew Benintendi last year because of the lack of confidence in Hicks. Nothing has changed in my mind. Hicks does not inspire confidence anymore, and he continues a downward trend without hope for improvement. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Aaron Hicks to the Injured List. Best case scenario is his removal from the roster, one way or another.  I am not going to crucify the front office…yet. They know the team’s weaknesses better than any of us, and they just hired two high-powered executives who can get the job done. I will reserve judgment for the Yankees’ offseason success until the team prepares to depart Tampa for Yankee Stadium in late March.  Bottom line, there is still time to improve.

The Yankees did lose one player this week. Reliever Junior Fernández, who had been designated for assignment in December, was claimed by the division rival Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees had claimed Fernández in November from the Pirates, and he had appeared to be a potential reclamation project. Unfortunately, the Yankees needed roster space for Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodón, and Tommy Kahnle. Hopefully Fernández does not find success in Toronto, assuming he stays on their 40-man roster this offseason, at least not against the Yankees. 

When the Arizona Diamondbacks designated pitcher Taylor Widener, a former Yankees prospect, for assignment recently, I thought the Yankees might take a flyer to see if they can fix the once promising player. Widener cleared waivers and was sent outright to Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno, Nevada.

The Yankees did add a few outfielders on minor league deals last month. Former Dodgers/Rangers prospect Willie Calhoun gets an invitation to Spring Training. He spent last season in the Giants organization. No doubt Brian Sabean has an opinion about him. Former Yankees prospect Billy McKinney also returns to the organization although he seems more like Triple A depth. Former Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega also gets the spring invitation. Calhoun might be the biggest name; Ortega appears to be the most promising…at least as a fourth outfielder type. 

Rafael Ortega (Photo Credit: USA TODAY)

Trevor Bauer is free

The Los Angeles Dodgers released a statement yesterday that Bauer will no longer be part of their organization. The Bauer camp issued a conflicting statement that he had been told he was in the team’s plans which the club has refuted.

Any team can now sign Bauer for the Major League minimum of $720,000 and the Dodgers are on the hook for the balance of his 2023 contract. He is due approximately $22.5 million in the final year of his deal with the Dodgers.

My position is unchanged. I do not want Trevor Bauer on the New York Yankees. I do not care that you can get the pitcher for pennies on the dollar. He is not a good clubhouse fit, and I firmly believe in team chemistry. I am sure the Dodgers did not make their decision lightly. By cutting Bauer, they run the risk he takes his arm to San Diego to battle against them.

There are rumors he could end up with the Tampa Bay Rays. His price (minimum wage) is certainly within their budget.  So be it. Let him be their problem, not ours. 

I get that he was never convicted, but he did receive baseball’s longest suspension. Character matters, and Bauer is the wrong kind of character. 

Carlos Correa, anyone?

As negotiations continue between the Mets and Carlos Correa, his old team, the Minnesota Twins, have entered the fray, perhaps with the thought they can secure the return of their starting shortstop for another short term, high annual value contract. With two teams taking exception to giving Correa an extended contract after reviewing the medicals, I certainly would not want to see the Yankees throw a seven- or eight-year contract at him. 

Carlos Correa (Photo Credit: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

Yet, if you can get him for one or two years, why not? It is only money. I doubt the Yankees do it since it would inflate their already high payroll. It is frustrating that so much salary is dedicated to underperformers like Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. Six million dollars for Isiah Kiner-Falefa also seems unreasonable for a guy who should not be starting on our favorite team. I would love for the Yankees to clear salary space to bring in Correa on a short-term deal. If the Twins can do it, so can the Yankees. Last year, the Twins were able to add Correa because they were able to move Donaldson. Maybe Brian Cashman can find sucker for Donaldson like the Twins did last year. 

Damar Hamlin

Continued thoughts and prayers to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin for a full recovery. The World is a better place with you in it.

Damar Hamlin (Photo Credit: Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY Sports)

As always, Go Yankees!